Yesterday (my second full day in town) was a turning point. Jetlag was subsiding, I went for my first run in Bombay, and best of all, I got to hang out with my new coworkers!
My First Run
It felt really good to work out. I was fortunate this past summer at home to have time to work out six days a week. I also had access to my mom’s adorable dog, Meagan, who served as a motivator. On longer runs when she was getting tired, I’d go into coach mode and in turn, motivate myself. Oftentimes this would involve belting whatever was playing in my headphones to her in a very animated fashion (“Apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur, with the fur!”) Other times, when I was getting tired, she would pull me along. A few times, she kind of saved my life. You see, sometimes when I’m running, I like to close my eyes. It helps me focus on my goal of keeping going and get into the music. The problem is, I don’t always run in a straight line when my eyes are closed. Several times when I closed my eyes, Meagan yanked me hard using her leash which was annoying until I realized she was pulling me out of a ditch.
Running here was different, of course. No Meagan (man I miss that dog!) and no serene tree lined running paths as are so common in Minnesota. It’s a bit more, shall we say, engaging. A constant weave of leaping in and out of traffic, onto the sidewalk and off (when you come upon a snack stand blocking the way), around the multitude of pedestrians (who are all walking but you), it’s quite interesting. This doesn’t include, of course, the annoyance of having to run in capris rather than shorts (for modesty reasons) and the challenge of finding your way in the absence of street signs for most roads or a clear grid system.
I had run in India before—several years ago, when I was a study abroad student in Kolkata (Calcutta). The challenges were similar but I was very lucky to live across the street from a large park with a path I could run on. I appreciated the park then, but I appreciate it even more now that I don’t have it. This said, running in Bandra (the part of Mumbai where I’m currently staying) is not nearly as hectic and difficult as would be running in many other parts of the city that are more crowded and less used to crazy running foreigners (running outside is not common among Indians). All of these minor difficulties aside, I really enjoyed myself.
Per the instructions of my friend Sarah, I ran to, and then along, the boardwalk that lines the sea. It was my first time seeing the ocean here. Unfortunately when I was almost back, I missed a turn and was lost for a while. Thankfully I had brought a phone and had the time so I just wandered around for a bit (good opportunity to see more of the area) before asking several folks for directions to make my way back.
I’m looking forward to establishing a routine here—especially when it comes to health.
1st Coworker Party
My new coworker Aparna told me at the party yesterday that I was probably the first UnLtd staff member ever to go to an UnLtd party before ever completing a day of work. I can’t say I minded that being the case.
Before the party, everyone was meeting at the office. I headed there, surprisingly having two rickshaw drivers attempt to rip me off along way (it’s not as common in Bombay as it is in other Indian cities). This time in the office for the second time, I got the chance to look around, sit in the comfy chairs by the open windows, peruse the books on the shelves, and converse with Aditi, an intern from Great Britain.
Come 3:45, the females (majority) of the office headed out to catch some rickshaws to Preeti’s flat (apartment) in Thane. Unfortunately our male coworkers couldn’t make it. After finally convincing rickshaw drivers to take us the hour drive, we hopped in and settled in to see quite a bit of Bombay. The drive was my first time on the highway and caused me to realize just how big Bombay is (the fact that you could drive an hour and still be in city limits!).
Upon arrival at Preeti’s beautiful apartment, we began to cook an international feast—popcorn, pasta, pani puri (Bombay specialty), pancakes, salsa/chips, and cake. We all chipped in for wine spritzers and took turns hanging out on the balcony and overlooking numerous high rise construction projects. It was definitely an area in rapid development. Soon it was dinner time, and boy was it delicious. I teased my coworkers as they devoured the pani puri, nearly forgetting about the rest of the food that was soon to come out. Thankfully I still had room by the time the rest of the food was done.
After dinner, we played the card game Mafia. This was an excellent opportunity to come to know my coworkers diverse personalities. Whereas Gooncha couldn’t stop talking and gesturing, even after she was “dead,” Swati was renown for her silence and suspecting facial expressions. The most hilarious moment of the night was when the moderator informed Jigna that she was dead to which she replied, dumbfounded, “But why?” (The answer, as those of you who play Mafia know, is simply that the mafia decided to kill her.)
By the time we all hopped in taxis to begin the hourlong journey home, I had gotten to know my coworkers quite well. I couldn’t believe how welcoming, open, and authentic they were—so much so that I already feel part of the group. Before joining UnLtd I had heard from other employees I’d talked to what a great culture it had. Now I know what they mean.